Have you ever wondered how doctors find doctors for themselves and their families? We all could take a tip from physicians when it comes to evaluating other medical professionals. Too many people find a doctor by picking one randomly from a list of practitioners who accept their insurance. Or they choose someone close to their home, regardless of whether the person is qualified to treat specific symptoms and conditions. Here are better ways to choose your next healthcare professional:

  • Rely on word of mouth. Doctors know other doctors who can clue them in to who's worth seeing and who isn't. If you have a doctor you trust, ask that person for a referral to a good specialist. If you have a friend or neighbor who's a doctor, or who's married to one or the sibling of one, don't be shy. You're not asking for free medical advice about that trick knee-you're asking for a recommendation. Most people will be happy to steer you to someone they have faith in.
  • Look on the Internet. Yes, doctors search online for other doctors. "I always look to see if they have a web site," says Ilana Zablozki, a physiatrist in Brooklyn, New York. "Then I check their credentials and unique things they specialize in." Are patient reviews off-limits? Not at all, says Zablozski, who checks web sites such as www.yelp.com to learn what other people think of particular practitioners. She does admit, though, "I take it with a grain of salt."
  • Be nosy. This is no time to clam up. Doctors know that the right questions can yield lots of information. "If I am going for a specific procedure, then I ask how many of these procedures they have performed in the past and their outcomes," says Angela Parisi, a New Jersey radiologist. "Sometimes I will ask how familiar they are with a specific disease entity."
  • Have a consultation. A face-to-face meeting gives you the chance to see if you connect with this person. While doctors are busy and can't be expected to shoot the breeze with you for half an hour, a good one will be thorough, understanding, and address any concerns you have. Rushing through a visit, not explaining exactly what your treatment will entail, and not maintaining eye contact are all turn-offs to other doctors. "One doctor actually had his back to me while he was typing my information into a computer," Zablozki says. "Until he found out I was a doctor." Bottom line? You want someone who will treat all of his or her patients with respect-regardless of their occupation.


Sources: Angela Parisi, MD; Ilana Zablozki, MD.